Appleton, WI

Jan 5: In Joy and Sorrow by Fr. Bill

If you had to guess how many Christmases I have celebrated with our family of faith here at St Mary Parish, what would you think? If you guessed six Christmases, you would be correct. It is hard to believe how fast the years fly by, especially for those of us who are older. I turned 65 this December.

You and I will have to decide for ourselves if the following is good news or not? Bishop Ricken is hoping that when we priests turn 70, the age when we are eligible for Senior Priest Status, we would be willing to stay on in our parishes for an additional two years, if our health would allow that. As you know, in the Diocese of Green Bay, we are really experiencing the need for more priests. And until we convince more and more young men to listen well to the Lord who may be calling them to priestly ministry, we will be relying more and more on our Senior Priests, our International Priests who are on loan to us from their home dioceses in Uganda, Nigeria, India and the Philippines, and our parish leaders, who may be deacons or religious women, who are ministering in our parishes full-time, with the help of a Senior Priest, to regularly celebrate the weekend Masses and the Sacraments. If my health allows, I am considering ministering here at St Mary until I am 72. What do you think? Imagine Pope Francis and the enormous responsibilities he has leading a 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church and doing this so gracefully at 83 years of age. It is only by the grace of the Holy Spirit that he can do that, which the Holy Father admits to again and again. Come, Holy Spirit!

So, here we are saying “Goodbye” to 2019 and “Hello” to 2020. We are entering yet another new decade. I can still vividly remember all of the hullabaloo that accompanied our welcome of the new century in 2000. And here we are twenty years later! As we welcome the New Year, I would encourage you to pray the Ignatian Examen. The examen is always a good way to end each day with the Lord but would also be appropriate as we leave 2019. Here are the steps:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you review the year with a holy perspective – with wisdom, grace, and faith.
  2. Review the year with gratitude. Pay attention to the good gifts from the year ending. Name specifically those that come to memory now, and thank God for them.
  3. Pay attention to your emotions. What memories speak most loudly to you? What events, conversations, relationships, or activities bring up the most emotion now, as you remember them? Ask God to help you rest with these emotions, whether they are pleasant or disturbing. Ask for help in understanding why you feel as you do.
  4. Choose one feature of your year and pray from it. Perhaps a single event stands out in your memory or it’s a pattern of behavior that has come to mind. Pray about this single event or pattern.
  5. Look forward to the new year. Imagine what challenges and blessings might await you in the coming year. Think of important relationships, major and minor decisions to be made, skills to learn, habits to build, healing to seek, and good work to accomplish. Bring your hopes and fears to the Lord.

-adapted from an article by Vinita Hampton Wright, “Examen Prayer for the Year”

Let us pray,
In the stillness of my prayer as the New Year begins, open my heart to your blessings, Lord, with the grace to be faithful to prayer every day. In the quiet of my time with you today, let me rest at peace with the year just ended and look with hope to the year ahead. Whatever comes my way this year, help me remember, Lord, that in your love, I can bear all things, believe all things, and endure all things with your grace and in your peace. In this New Year before me, Lord, help me find some time each day to be still, in your presence, and to know that you are my God, that you are near, that you are here, by my side. Amen.
-Father Austin Fleming, The Concord Pastor

Happy New Year!
Father Bill +